Perhaps no arcade game is so nostalgically remembered, yet so critically bemoaned, as Dragon’s Lair. A bit of a technological neanderthal, the game implemented a unique combination of videogame components and home video replay, garnering great popular media and user attention in a moment of contracted economic returns and popularity for the videogame arcade business. But subsequently, writers and critics have cast the game aside as a cautionary tale of bad game design. In Dragon’s Lair and the Fantasy of Interactivity, MJ Clarke revives Dragon’s Lair as a fascinating textual experiment interlaced with powerful industrial strategies, institutional discourse, and textual desires around key notions of interactivity and fantasy. Constructing a multifaceted historical study of the game that considers its design, its makers, its recording medium, and its in-game imagery, Clarke suggests that the more appropriate metaphor for Dragon’s Lair is not that of a neanderthal, but a socio-technical network, infusing and advancing debates about the production and consumption of new screen technologies. Far from being the gaming failure posited by evolutionary-minded lay critics, Clarke argues, Dragon’s Lair offers a fascinating provisional solution to still-unsettled questions about screen media.
MJ Clarke is associate professor in TV, film, and media studies at California State University, Los Angeles.
Chapter 1: Dragon's Lair: The Hardware
Chapter 2: Dragon's Lair: The Business
Chapter 3: Dragon's Lair: The Disc
Chapter 4: Dragon's Lair: The Fantasy
About the Author
Vibrant prose, detailed research, and a holistic methodology make Clarke’s Dragon’s Lair and the Fantasy of Interactivity a fascinating look at a game that became an iconic pinnacle of both a technology and a genre of video games, laserdisc games, and led to a discussion of the very nature of interactivity. For a tour of Dragon’s Lair, one cannot find a better guide.